Published on December 20, 2022

A3C and the Power of Hip-Hop

A3C is a fusion festival. Now in its 18th year, it has grown from a local hip-hop event to a huge Atlanta based celebration of music, tech and culture. The term fusion describes not only its multi-themed nature, but also its audience. A3C attracts innovators, educators, musicians, fans, and activists, from many different ages, places and backgrounds.

A3C stands for ‘all three coasts’, and highlights Atlanta both as a uniting dynamic in the East-West battle, and a presence in its own right. Home-grown Atlanta hip hop continues to impress, with both new and more established artists adding to its status as a musical powerhouse. The list of icons infusing the world with Atlanta flavor includes the likes of OutKast, TLC, Usher, Lil John, Ludacris, and Migos, among many others.

But why morph from a hip-hop showcase into one of culture, art and tech? Perhaps because hip-hop has always been more than entertainment. As Doekhi notes, “Hip-hop is not just a musical genre but also a cultural art form that is used to express the experiences of marginalization and inequality by African-Americans and other minorities.” Moreover, its crossover from niche to mainstream is due in a large part to technology, particularly the rise of social media, streaming platforms, and the digitalization of the music industry. Since much hip-hop is a form of protest from groups without access to mainstream commercialization channels, digitalization acts as a powerful equalizer. It allows artists without huge recording studios to get exposure, while still maintaining their independence and soul. It also makes sampling easier and more affordable, a way of ‘democratizing creativity’.

With every disruption comes downsides, however. Digitalization means that artists often need multiple revenue streams to stay profitable, since streaming is not lucrative for smaller musicians. Moreover, the new audiences accessing music from streaming platforms may be missing out on the powerful cultural context of hip-hop. This is why a festival like A3C is so important. It brings together passionate innovators, cultural icons, and new artists of all kinds. Other art forms, particularly those arising as a form of protest from marginalized communities need to capitalize on the trail blazed by hip-hop. And hip-hop needs to find a way to grow without losing its cultural roots and power. Since many growth channels are still monopolized by vested interests, the community needs to find alternative ways to support music and other art mediums. Art should be both a form of expression AND allow artists to make a living.
Thus A3C. Returning September 28 – 30, 2023 with fantastic entertainment, most definitely. But so much more, it is a powerful tool to restore hip-hop’s cultural roots and allow it and other art to capitalize on new technology and grow.



About the Author:

Krista Tuomi, Professor in the International Economic Policy program at the School of International Service, American UniversityKrista Tuomi is a professor in the International Economic Policy program at School of International Service, American University. She has worked for many years as a policy analyst in the areas of innovation and investment. Her regular Bizwomen column, media interviews, and research focus on topics that include angel investing, crowdfunding, non-profit management and fundraising. 

She also conducts workshops in the US and abroad on all forms of small business and non-profit financing. Her passion for the field of innovation and entrepreneurship extends to her pro-bono work.

Currently, she works with SCORE, Greenwood, Boots to Business, Martha’s Table, Black Girl Ventures, Syracuse’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and the Angel Capital Association.